Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Adios to a different kind of bike.

Before I got back into bicycles, I rode motorcycles. I've had a motorcycle for years now, pretty close to 6 or 7 - I can't remember, to be honest. Altogether I have owned 5 motorcycles in the past few years, but I have been riding my current motorcycle less and less; I think I put maybe a hundred miles on my BMW over the past twelve months, while I've put a few thousand miles on my bicycles.

Unfortunately motorcycles rot when they sit, and with a young daughter I rarely have extra time to be out motorcycling - and when I do have extra time, I am generally riding a bicycle. This being the case, and not wanting my beautiful BMW to rot, I have decided to "get out of the business", and sell her.

So sad this place wasn't open. On the way to Tupelo. 
I rode her around Dallas quite a bit, and managed to get one long solo trip; in the summer of 2007 I took a week long road trip to Birmingham AL to see The Barber Museum, five floors of motorcycles. I squeezed the trip in before my daughter was born, and I'm glad I did, because things went exactly as I expected them to, and my time became too precious to waste out on the road. The trip to Barber was incredible; it was my first long solo trip on a motorcycle, and I had a great time. I rode the back roads of Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama, camping the first night in a little town in Arkansas called Lake Village. Lake Village contributed many boys to fight the war of Northern aggression, but their proudest day was when Charlie Lindbergh had to make an emergency landing on the local golf course. At least it was what everyone told me when I asked why I should remember Lake Village.

Civil War Memorial, Lake Village AR. 

I camped in Arkansas then bugged out towards Birmingham - but as I once starred in a production of The Glass Menagerie (as the gentleman caller, of course) I thought I should stop a Tennessee Williams' boyhood home in Columbus, MS. I stopped in Columbus for a nice lunch and probably the only tour of the home by a sweaty biker (at least I think so because of the way the old ladies running the museum stared) in the last decade, at least. 

Tennessee Williams' Boyhood Home

After Columbus it was on to Birmingham - where I spent at least 3 hours caught in Birmingham rush hour traffic. Once I made it out, I did make it to the museum and had a great time - especially since the first motorcycle you see at this incredible museum is mine. First one, right off of the elevator. 

In front of the museum - you see the same bike inside.  
Now, even though I live in Texas (or perhaps because I live in Texas) I love a rainy overcast day, and during my three hours at the museum the skies got cloudier and cloudier and my chances of camping out grew smaller and smaller. As you can see in the picture above, there were not a ton of people there that day - in fact, I am pretty sure it was just me and the other guy, who was finishing up his tour as I entered. The coolest thing about the Barber museum, in my opinion, is the track that is behind it. Apparently the racetrack on the museum campus is a world class facility, used for MotoGP and other racing series. On my private overcast day at the museum the track was being used by a Ferrari driving school, and the scream of the engines being put through their paces was incredible as I examined a hundred years worth of motorcycles, including plenty of antiques that are more bicycle than motorcycle. 

I spent my rainy night in a hotel Birmingham, then made my way to Tupelo in the morning. This wasn't my first trip to Tupelo, and aside from the Elvis connection I really do love the town. It's so small and southern it's hard not to like. After the obligatory snaps at Elvis' birthplace and the hardware store where his first guitar came from, I hopped on the Natchez Trace and rode up to visit some guys I was doing business with at a Harley dealership in Lawrenceburg, TN. 

Elvis' boyhood home
Where it all began. 

I really enjoyed the ride up the Natchez Trace, and would love to do it on a bicycle someday; it's a great road with speed limit restrictions and limited entrances and exits, and it was just an incredibly beautiful ride. 

Looking over the Natchez Trace. 
I met with my dealership contacts and spent my last camping night of the trip in nearby David Crockett state park. The state park is the site where Davy Crockett established a powdermill, gristmill, and distillery. When the small industry he created there was washed away by a flood, he went on to politics, got fed up with that (of course) and then to the Alamo. I spent the night in the campground drinking beer with a riverboat pilot who was camping in the spot next door. He was a very nice guy, and despite our different backgrounds we had a great conversation about life, the road, freedom, and family.

After my last night of camping, I made my way to Memphis via backroads and spent the morning kicking around Graceland. I'm not sure if you picked up on this or not, but I'm a bit of an Elvis fan, and in fact this was my third visit to his house. I did the mini tour of Graceland, had lunch with a few other motorcyclists that I had hooked up with on the way in, took some photos, and split to find Sun records. 

In front of Graceland

I found Sun, took my photos there, decided that I was done with riding the backroads and hopped on the superslab to take me home. 

Sun - notice the kid staring at the bike and not the building. 
I was just outside Hope AR and thinking that I would just pin back the throttle and push all the way through to home when the sun started to go down. I wasn't too worried about it, and was actually enjoying the sunset when I saw a deer run out from the growth at the side of the road. He was just a shadowy form, but he couldn't have been much more than 50 yards in front of me, leaping onto the highway, trying to regain his footing, then taking off for the other side of the road. Not being stupid, I decided to pull over in Hope and spend the night, rather than being killed by a deer. Luckily for me, Hope fit right into my theme, as it was the birthplace of President William Jefferson Clinton. 

I pulled the motorcycle into the lobby of the only hotel in Hope, paid for my room, and then became a member at the bar connected to the hotel - my $10 membership fee was good for a year, though I never used it again. I had a long talk about gas prices with a trucker and his wife (who I think was a mail order bride, because her Russian accent was cartoonish), drank a few beers, and ended up turning in so I could leave early and get home. I made a quick stop by Bill Cinton's boyhood home, took a snapshot, and then barreled home to my wife. 

Clinton's home
This isn't the only trip I took with my motorcycle (and these are just the highlights of this trip, it was a great adventure)  - my brother and I went to ROT one year (and I wish that I had photos from that, trust me), my wife and I went and camped at an outlaw club rally one weekend, I ate at Mom's famous pig roast along with a bunch of  Banditos and their prospects, and spent more than my fair share of time talking bikes with other bikers. The bike took me and my wife on many dates, it once helped me to find my lost dog, and it took me all the way up over 100mph on more than one occasion.

I'll miss owning a motorcycle, and I'll miss long trips and all of that, but I think most of all I will miss my early morning grocery runs on Sundays - I do them on bicycles now, but the motorcycle rides to the store in shorts and a T-shirt might be what I will miss the most - the wind in my hair, my pipes quietly burbling as I slip through the cool morning air. I did sell the bike with the provision that if he ever decides to get rid of it, I'm the first call he makes.  Maybe five or ten years from now you'll read another post about this bike. I hope so. 

Adios, baby. 


  1. OK, the hardware store photo in Tupelo made me tear up a bit. I miss my grandpa so much, and I could just hear his voice saying, "You want to see where Elvis bought his first guitar?" Then his grin when he pointed to the store.
    The Natchez Trace is indeed beautiful. I didn't go to Mississippi this summer, the first time I've missed in as long as I can remember.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I didn't mean to remove the comment.